COUNCIL: Puzzling debate around the mayor seeking legal advice
Despite a few puzzled councillors and a confusing debate erupting in the council chambers, the majority of Maranoa councillors voted in favour of allowing mayor Tyson Golder to obtain written legal advice to amend a report titled ‘Approval for Mayor to incur Legal Expenses’.
In the council meeting on March 24, mayor Golder moved the motion to allow him to obtain written legal advice directly on how to amend the report L. 15 ‘Approval for Mayor to incur Legal Expenses’ from the ordinary meeting on February 24.
Part of the motion meant he would share the advice with fellow councillors and council CEO Julie Reitano.
A few bewildered faces appeared in the chambers, which resulted in Ms Reitano clarifying to councillors that Cr Golder is seeking legal advice on how to get legal advice.
The first question came from Cr Wendy Taylor who asked whether the advice will be shared with councillors.
The mayor told the nine councillors including Cr Cameron O’Neil who appeared via phone that all the advice would be provided.
Next question was from Cr Joh Hancock, “I don’t understand why we need legal advice to amend a report … can’t we amend it, why do we need legal advice to amend a report”.
Cr O’Neil also asked why the mayor wouldn’t opt to remove the report from the agenda and start over.
Ms Reitano informed councillors that the mayor isn’t sure what to ask lawyers so must seek legal advice to get legal advice.
Cr Hancock followed by saying this matter was laid on the table at a previous council meeting for Cr Golder to seek advice and asked whether he had gotten that advice.
“I considered it and I believe I need actual legal advice and this is what I have come up with,” Cr Golder replied.
“I’m still confused but that’s OK … you need to seek legal advice to amend L. 15, is that the only thing you are getting legal advice on?” Cr Taylor asked.
Cr Golder confirmed that L. 15 from the February 24 meeting was the only item he was seeking legal clarification on.
“I’ve had advice that the mayor can seek legal advice directly, that’s what I can do and that’s what I’m asking,” Cr Golder said.
Ms Reitano suggested it was integral that councillors are across the background information and questions the mayor will provide to the legal team to get a better understanding of their response.
“Can I suggest, the issue is, you need to see what the instructions are, unless you see what is asked of legal, you don’t know what they are giving the answer to … it depends on what information is provided, if you only give this amount of information, then that’s the advice given, but they don’t know what amount, you also need to see what’s asked,” Ms Reitano informed councillors.
Cr Mark Edwards asked Ms Reitano whether the mayor would need to seek legal advice to provide that information.
“If the advice is going to be shared with council, you need to see what was asked and the information provided to legal … the advice given is only as good as what was provided,” Ms Reitano said.
“You have to be upfront with what’s asked.
“As long as council knows what was asked, then you can consider that information in context otherwise we will be guessing what was asked.”
Ms Reitano said there’s a risk if councillors only rely on the legal advice but are not fully informed on the entire matter.
“Just a question, so just so we’re clear, the questions you’re posing to whatever legal firm you’re engaging through Local Buy, that will be provided the councillors to understand what their response is. Is that right,” Cr O’Neil asked the mayor.
Cr Golder said he doesn’t believe he will provide exact word-by-word responses because he may seek legal advice in person, but the general gist will be provided.
Cr O’Neil responded saying law firms are generally able to provide a capture of what was asked to include in their response.
The mayor said the report will focus on amending the report.
Crs Golder, Geoff McMullen, John Birkett, Julie Guthrie, George Ladbrook and Edwards voted in favour of the mayor seeking legal advice.
Crs O’Neil, Taylor and Hancock voted against the motion.
You can watch the discussion here: